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Splitting oodles of cottonwood, renting splitter -- any tricks I need to know?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by annette, May 3, 2012.

  1. annette

    annette Member

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    Hi all, it's been a long time. Fancy new forum!

    We're about to have 4-5 cottonwood trees cut down, and the affordable price will have us dealing with the wood ourselves. The guy says he'll cut everything to 16." It will suck enough even with that!

    At this time of year, the wood is going to be really wet--does this affect its ease in splitting? (better or worse?)

    I own an electric splitter that can do straight-grain oak fine, can't do knotted oak or wet black gum. I think we need to rent a "real" splitter, and I was thinking one that will sit upright, so we can push a round into place rather than lift it. I haven't done this, though, so IS that actually easier?

    Are those big splitters easy to move around, or hard? We would want to take it by hand over grass into the backyard for 2 of the trees.

    Any other tips for renting & using that splitter that I should know, or for this project in general?

    Lastly--anyone want some cottonwood????

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  2. chuckie5fingers

    chuckie5fingers Member

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    hi Annette
    how big in diameter is the tree?
    prolly wont be able to move the rental splitter around by hand unless theres 2 of ya.
    others will chime in as far as ease of splitting.
    I would say try your electric first, if it doesnt do the job or the rounds are monsters, then rent the gas one.
  3. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Annette. We have a 20 ton MTD that we've had over 20 years. Yes, I can move it by hand a short distance but usually move it to the splitting area with the atv. Splitting in the vertical position is for sure the easiest (see my avatar). That way you do not have to lift every piece of wood before splitting. I roll the big ones on, not by laying them down to roll but just tipping them a bit and rolling them that way.

    One thing you may find right way is that you usually do not have to take the wedge all the way through the log before it is split nor do you have to let it go all the way back up. If renting, this can be a huge time saver. Another thing is that you do not have to split every piece in half. I like to split in such a way that I end up with lots of rectangular pieces rather than triangles. It makes building the ends of the wood piles much easier and they stack in the stove very nicely.

    Also, do not think you have to have a huge splitter. Many think they have to have 35 ton or more. Our 20 ton does very well even on elm and on knotty stuff.
  4. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    In my experience, you cannot split cottonwood (with a splitter or maul) very well if it is green. It also takes a really long time to dry. The stuff I cut last year is still green... and on my stacks. I no longer try to get cottonwood, even though I could get all I want around here for free. It is light wood that has low heating value for the same time and space as other denser woods is just not worth it. It also smells funky if burned anywhere on the green side. Shoulder season and fire starting wood at best... same for poplar and aspen, all in the same family, same type of wood and heating and splitting.
  5. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    There must be a difference in the cottonwood out there StihlHead. Here the cottonwood dries quite fast. It does stink!
  6. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    When you go/call the rental place, let them know what you need to do with it.
    They may have a small unit that you can move around with reasonable ease.
    If the trees are big, you want to split "vertical", (like Dennis mentioned) so you don't have to lift the big rounds up to the splitters beam.
    Cottonwood here splits fairly easy, it's a little stringy, but I've always split it in the fall after the leaves are gone, now it will be wet & heavy.
    Got any local young men that want a few bucks to help?
  7. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest


    Its the same species, nation-wide. Weather is likely different though.
  8. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    The ground that you're moving the splitter over had better be pretty flat or it will be a struggle, even with two people...
    Ya, this thing is da bomb! :cool:
  9. annette

    annette Member

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    Hmm. The ground we have to roll the splitter over is mostly flat, except a bit of a rise as we turn a corner. That corner may suck. I will have my guy to help me with some of this, until his weekend ends. Then it's just me! I guess we need to do the trees in back, then get the splitter moved back up front before he zooms off.

    Are these upright splitters stable enough on relatively flat dirt? Or will it be scary-tippy?

    If springtime-wet cottonwood is about the same as wet oak, I can move anything 14" and under on my own, maybe bigger. The biggest tree is a V, and about 2.5' by 4' right at the base. Then the two trunks are only 2' diameter, the other trees a touch smaller. :O

    My tentative plan is:
    Tree guys create carnage
    I do branches and small stuff with my own splitter until the weekend
    My guy comes, we rent the splitter and split a lot of wood
    He leaves, there are still millions of chunks I can't move, I post for labor help on CL
    Does that sound about right?

    By the way, for moving a huge wet round with two people, even for just getting it into a wheelbarrow, is it useful to have something like a sling/loop of rope? Or anything else?

    Thanks!
  10. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Annette, no worry about these things being unsteady for what you are doing. I know the newer models are built narrower than our older unit but that only bothers if one goes thought the woods in extremely unlevel terrain or goes too fast. I know of only one fellow though who has tipped one over. His own fault though.

    Some like to make some type of sling but I've never tried that and don't think it would gain you much. Have you considered buying a cant hook? Sure makes rolling big logs easy. It also works great when cutting up the tree. Picture the log on the ground. You can't cut all the way through without coming into contact with the ground. That will dull the chain super fast; like right now. But if one cuts 3/4 or a little more through the log, then rolls it with the cant hook to finish the cut, that works great.
  11. annette

    annette Member

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    Thanks for the info, Dennis. I wonder if that hook may be handy for cutting big branches, which we will have to deal with on our own. (I definitely know I don't want my chainsaw blade to touch dirt!) Otherwise the tree people say they will cut everything to 16."

    How hard/dangerous is it to do an up-down cut on a huge round, to make two half-rounds? I could see us considering that once our backs get sore.
  12. Iembalm4aLiving

    Iembalm4aLiving Feeling the Heat

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    I'm working on splitting up a monster cottonwood that used to live in our back yard. It's tougher to split than most, but it can be done. I've found that larger rounds go easier if you split an edge off (like 4 or 5 inches) first, and then go from there. It's kind of stringy and will give you a work out. But once dried it will burn.

    I'm using a 12 ton gas splitter. Certainly not a monster. But it does just fine. Like the others have said, give your electric a shot and see what happens. You may be surprised.

    Good luck!

    Greg
  13. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Since I normally do all my splitting by hand, I often end up ripping large or difficult rounds in half, and then splitting pieces out of each half with the maul. It's very easy, and very quick, if you rip with your bar parallel to the grain. It goes so fast and easy, that some saws have trouble clearing the chips fast enough, and may frequently clog.

    That said, I have a rental splitter in my back yard right now. Trying to get a jump start on next year. Pounded thru almost one full cord in about 1.5 hours this evening.
  14. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Some do that but I don't like it so just will not cut that way. When I split by hand, the big ones got split with sledge and wedges. I think that is still easier than doing it with the saw.Here is a picture of our atv and trailer. That was taken a year ago December when we just started the annual cutting. Notice the cant hook in the trailer.

    First load.JPG

    Do you like cottonwood? Check this one out. That is my wife in the pictures.

    Cottonwood-Judy.JPG Cottonwood-Judy-2.JPG
    .
  15. annette

    annette Member

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    Holy schmoly, Dennis! It looks like she thought about that tree falling on her house, and passed out. :) I would, too.

    My electric splitter is a whopping 5 tons, so I don't think it's going to do a lot for us. It also moves pretty slowly, even with using a spacer block. It's always been fine for me before, especially since it's what I could afford (and no gas engine to fuss with!). But for trying to split 5 trees worth of wood, I think we need a little more power and speed!

    Sigh. I can see us filling up the yard with racks of wood, then once we run out of room we'll be stacking cut and split firewood on the street to try to give away! :'(
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Big wood stack-1.jpg

    Big woodstack-2.jpg
  17. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I'd be be knocking those stacks over with an excavator if that was my neighbor!
  18. annette

    annette Member

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    I don't think I'd park my car there. Isn't there a limit on how high it's safe to stack wood?

    I just set up our dates with the tree guy, and for a couple hundred more he'll take away a lot of the big chunks from the front yard. Hooray! So our stack will only be 1/2 the height you see in the photo ;)
  19. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Annette - (welcome back) get those pros to do as much for you as you can. If you have huge rounds that you just can't hardly deal with, then have them hauled off. Let them do the bucking to your 16-18" range (what ever your stove will take).

    For your purpose - a vert/horiz machine will definitely be the way to go. They are stable, so you shouldn't have a problem there. As Dennis said, a cant hook may be very helpful in moving those rounds to the splitter.

    Your question about cutting a round into two halves is referred to as "noodling" a round. It can be done, but is usually reserved for bigger sized saws, otherwise is can be painfully slow (if I remember correctly, you have a smaller CC saw (not sure that I am remembering correctly, though)).

    When you have your "guy" help - get the big stuff done, then you can work on the smaller/easier stuff. Concentrate on the big stuff while you have the help. Stacking can always happen later.
  20. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Why?
  21. Realstone

    Realstone Lord of Fire

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    I'd hollow it out & live in it.
    ScotO likes this.
  22. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    [quote="Backwoods Savage, post: 1118346, member: 1624"[/quote]

    "househausen" stacking technique?
    The bottom 4' row is the one I want to burn first, Now what? LOL :)
    Cool pic.
    I'm guessing the white sign says "Wood for sale" , "you load", "top first please" ;lol

    66654-1329e192542783078dcd1e32ea766fb7.jpg
  23. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    It's beyond ridiclous, looks to be easily 25-30ft high! I can see a storm come through and wood is falling over my cars, children, me, etc.

  24. annette

    annette Member

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    "Noodling" was just an idea I had, if case even the 16" lengths are too heavy to easily move. We would have to rent a bigger chainsaw, since mine is a mighty 12". (0 CCs, actually :) ) And if I'm renting a big chainsaw, I guess I could just cut it into slices.

    The tree people will be here the beginning of next week, so until the reinforcement arrives for the weekend I'll just be doing the branches and chipping the twigs. I don't think I'll split any of the branches, since I don't need to burn this wood anytime soon.
  25. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Rather than noodling, I'd simply split it by hand. A sledge and wedge can do wonders and I hate noodling.

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